Saturday, February 24, 2018
News Roundup

Commission wants further review of application for third fixed-base operator at Hernando airport

BROOKSVILLE — Since October of last year, Michael Honey-cutt has been trying to become a fixed-base operator at Brooksville-Tampa Bay Regional Airport.

The president of Jet ICU, an international air ambulance company based at the airport since 2007, Honeycutt stood by while the county last month approved an agreement with another company, Corporate Jet Solutions, to become the airport's second fixed-base operator. It took that company just four months.

On July 17, Honeycutt wrote to Hernando County Administrator Len Sossamon, asking to plead his case directly to the Hernando County Commission, bypassing the county's Aviation Authority.

"As each day passes,'' Honey-cutt wrote, "we miss the opportunity to grow and expand our business in Hernando County.''

On Tuesday, a unanimous County Commission said no, sending the Jet ICU proposal back to the Aviation Authority, which acts in an advisory role to the commission.

Commission Chairman Dave Russell said Honeycutt's application was "grossly insufficient.'' There was no proposed lease included, and county officials confirmed Monday that the majority shareholders in Jet ICU are not willing to make the lease changes necessary for an FBO to be located at their site.

In a memo to Russell, assistant county attorney Jon Jouben detailed other deficiencies in the application, including missing financial information and missing lists of officers and credit reports from company principals.

Moving forward with the issue would violate due process and could result in "adverse legal action'' against the county, Russell argued. He noted that the application needed to be reviewed first by the Aviation Authority. It hadn't gotten there yet because Honeycutt had not provided the information requested by former airport manager Don Silvernell.

"Again, we're putting the cart before the horse,'' said County Attorney Garth Coller. "This is how we got in trouble the last time, and I strongly recommend that we don't go down this road again."

Coller was referring to the controversy that Corporate Jet Solutions ignited by coming directly to the commission for a hearing in May.

Commissioner Wayne Dukes said he believes airport officials are not blameless in the Jet ICU case.

"I'm not saying that (Jet ICU) got all their ducks in a row," he said. "I'm just saying there were situations on both sides that I'm glad we can make better.''

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